My First Scottish Wild Swim – Loch Lomond

Ever since I started wild swimming, my desire to swim in a Scottish Loch has been like an itch I couldn’t scratch. This September, as an early birthday treat we decided to head to Fort William for a few days in the Highlands.

The journey north from Liverpool passes Loch Lomond and the Trosachs National Park via the A82. The plan for the day was to travel the six hours to Fort William with a stop off at Loch Lomond for my first Scottish wild swim!

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Loch Lomond

Four hours into the journey we stopped at a parking point (near Inverbeg), with views of Loch Lomond. With the amount of preparations I do now, I can’t just have a quick swim. Stripped to my swimsuit, I firstly have to inflate Doughnut and fix it to my waist. Then don my neoprene boots and gloves to protect my extremities. Also, I now have a beanie hat to help keep the heat in. Then I strap Wilson, my waterproof camera to my chest. All this I do before I even head towards the water!

Wrapped in my Dryrobe® I waddled like a penguin towards the shore. The shore I chose to embark on my first Scottish wild swim was of soft shingle, with Ben Lomond on the opposite side. The weather on the day was cloudy, but not too cold. I was prepared for frigid temperatures, but in reality the water temperature was around 14°. I can safely say I’ve swam in colder waters!

With David taking pictures and video on shore. I waded out into the water. I always seem rather nervous before I head into the water. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know what to expect from the water’s bed? Is it going to be blissful soft shingle like Llyn Cwellyn, or rocky as hell and a scramble to get in like Derwentwater? Thankfully my first Scottish wild swim was the former. The shingle beach slopped down in increments and I walked out until the water lapped around my neck.

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Loch Lomond. I swam back and forth along the shoreline and even managed to dunk my head for an underwater shot. Much fun was had and I really didn’t want to get out. However we had to travel a further two hours to our accommodation for the three nights stay.


We booked our accommodation via Airbnb. I had never used the website before until my friend Jennifer informed us that her European trip was booked through the website. After doing a search of the Fort William area, one accommodation seemed promising. A self catering apartment overlooking Loch Linnhe called Glenloch View. With much deliberation we decided to book, at £248 for three nights, it was cheaper than the hotels in the region. Check in was via Lock-box, so we never met the proprietor. However on arrival there was a vase with fresh cut flowers and a bag of tasty fudge for us. The ground floor apartment was clean and bright and very new. It had a lobby where boots and wet clothes could be left to dry. The living room/kitchen was open plan and had nice views of Loch Linnhe. The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge/freezer, and everything you needed to cook evening meals or even a cake! The double bedroom and bathroom was at the back of the apartment. There was TV with Freeview, a stereo and Internet. The apartment was very comfortable and we did not want to anything. I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the apartment.

Have you stayed in Fort William? Booked via Airbnb? Even swam in a Scottish Loch/Lochan?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

Doughnut’s First Swim!

It was the first outing of my orange tow float, and to celebrate this momentous occasion I walked 1.5 hours to Stickle Tarn, in the Langdales (and 1.5 hours back) to test it out!

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At Stickle Tarn

On a particular down day I decided that my swim kit just wasn’t complete without a tow float. I had read that COWS who swim at Derwentwater had asked swimmers to don a tow float so tourist boaters could see swimmers. For the sake of safety I decided to buy a Lomo tow float with pouch (other brands are available). It was only £19 including postage and arrived not two days after I ordered it. I was very happy with my purchase and was excited to test it out.

So when an impromptu break to the Lake District beckoned, the tow float came with me, along with a brand new Regatta rucksack. All this swim kit needs to be carried and the rucksack I had just wasn’t adequate.

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Regatta Rucksack

Our walk started from The National Trust Stickle Ghyll car park off the B5343 (nearest postcode LA22 9JX). David and I, didn’t know how long it would take to walk the route with a swim and picnic, so we paid for all day parking at £7.00. While David calibrated his steady cam I sat and enjoyed the woodland birds visiting the feeders a NT volunteer had put up. I even saw a yellowhammer but was unable to photograph it due to the poor zoom on my S6!

We followed a path from the north end of the car park. Passed a gate which traversed towards Stickle Ghyll and a path that had been stone pitched, that led steeply upwards. There were many plunge pools that looked inviting along the route.

We crossed a bridge which overlooked a hydroelectric scheme, that harnessed the power of the ghyll, from there the path steadily gained height. There were many scrambles which I wasn’t too happy about. However I manged to scale the rocks and overcame the stepping stones across the turbulent ghyll, before we took the final steps towards the tarn.

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Stickle Tarn

The summits of Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Pike O’ Stickle once formed the outer rim of a volcano. Many a climber has enjoyed ascending Jake’s Rake. I preferred to sink my body into cold 14°C waters. It was an ancient volcano after all!

I lasted about 15 minutes in the water before I decided to call it a day. While I looked the part, my technique let me down, with turbulent waters I struggled. The water was cold, and the wind that chopped the waters was equally as cold. I suffered badly from shivers on land afterwards. The tow float had a good swim and remained visible. Also the pouch with dry bag kept my phone dry (which I used to measure my swim), even after a capsize! David kindly filmed me swimming, the result can be seen above.

Once warmed up and had lunch we took the descent back to the car park. However we missed the boulder crossing at the ghyll and ended up looking for a way across further down. David found a site he thought was broach-able. For his long legs it was, but I failed in this leap of faith and hit the side of the ghyll. David reached for my left arm and as he kept a hold of me, to stop me from falling down the waterfall, I felt my tendons twist. I managed to climb onto dry land, having taken an impromptu dip in the ghyll. My boots were soaked and I was in the water up to my knees. I had just got dry, and now I was wet again! Add to that a throbbing wrist and I could be forgiven for giving up on the remaining plans for the day. However I did not. I fought the injury to go on a second swim that day.

I am happy to report that the remaining journey down the ghyll was uneventful. Thankfully there were free toilets at the car park and I managed to change into fresh swimwear.  I will write about about my second swim of the day in my next post.

Have you visited Stickle Tarn, or had an unexpected swim? Fallen into fast flowing water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_20Day 20: During our Lake District break we booked an alpaca walk with Alpacaly Ever After. Alpacas can live up to 20 years, mature around two, have only one cria (baby) and females chose when to go into labour. Their wool is oil free and fire retardant. They are grazers and roam the mountains of South America. They are predated upon by mountain lions and can run up to 30mph!

This and other information was given by our guide for the day, Ruby, however, I’ll go into more depth in a future post. At present, David is busy making a video of our experience which I can’t wait to share with you all!

The two alpacas we walked around the grounds of the Lingholm Estate were Beast and Milky Joe. I even guided Milky Joe for a dip in Derwentwater.

Have you walked alpacas? If so what was your experience of them?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Wainwrights #2

A while back I blogged about the Wainwrights David and I had inadvertently bagged while on our many swim/walks in the Lake District. You can read that post here. I thought I would follow up with a second blog which covers Wainwrights walked since 2017 up to the present. Many of the walks this time have been planned, except Beda Fell, which we discovered whilst lost en route to Angle Tarn. You can read about that exhausting adventure, here.

Raven Crag:

  • 461m
  • Classification, Wainwright
  • Central Fells
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Thirmere from Raven Crag

We took a walk to the viewpoint at Raven Crag during a short break to the Lakes in March 2017. Though the path was steep, Raven Crag was broached with no incident, and offered fantastic views of Thirmere. In spring the area is host to nesting Peregrine Falcons. We had the pleasure of seeing one fly over the tree tops.

Dodd:

  • 502m
  • Classification, Wainwright
  • Northern Fells
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David and I at Dodd

We walked to Dodd on a cloudy, windy day in April 2017. After visiting the Osprey viewpoint and seeing no Ospreys, we walked through forestry towards the viewpoint at Dodd overlooking Derwentwater and Keswick.

Beda fell:

  • 509m
  • Classification, Wainwright
  • Far Eastern Fells

Sadly I have no pictures of Beda Fell. After losing our way towards Angle Tarn and walking a good hour or so around the desolate fells, when we did come to a trig and viewpoint across a valley, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to snap a photo. Though in hindsight I wish I had because the view was beautiful!

Castle Crag:

  • 290m
  • Classification, Wainwright
  • North Western Fells
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Derwentwater from Castle Crag

Though the smallest of the Wainwrights, David and I had difficulty in following the path towards Castle Crag. We ended up taking the direct route! We did enjoy wondrous views across Derwentwater once we got to the summit!

Latrigg:

  • 368m
  • Classification, Wanwright
  • Northern Fells
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Derwentwater from Latrigg

Our most recent visit to the newly awarded World Heritage Site, The Lake District, saw us visit Latrigg. Over the past two years we had tried to visit this popular fell but time and weather had prevented us. However we visited on a summer-like day in April 2018, where the sun shone fiercely and the views were breathtaking!

Though we are not actively seeking Wainwrights, we have accumulated eight of the 214 fells. I can’t see (especially) me walking the likes of Helvellyn or Scafell Pike but I am enjoying the views from the lower fells.

If you’ve bagged all the Wainwrights, which ones do you think I could tackle in the future?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Oops…I Did it Again!

What gorgeous summer-like weather we have been having here in the UK! All this warm weather has made me itch to get back into the water.

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My first swim of 2018

My poll this year, on where to begin my wild swimming wasn’t very decisive. This Friday, David had taken a day off work for a planned Lake District adventure. I also packed my swim suit and new Dryrobe® just on the off chance of catching a swim!

On the day, our first destination was free parking between Keswick and Portinscale. We discovered this area while we ambled the 10 miles around Derwentwater in March. You can read all about that adventure here. We followed the road towards Spooney Green Lane, the start of our walk towards Latrigg.

The path took us through woodland, where chaffinches chattered from boughs and peacock butterflies flittered on the wing. Newborn lambs sunbathed before an impressive vista of Skiddaw, before we reached the summit with a glistening Derwentwater and surrounding fells before us.

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Derwentwater from Latrigg

David and I sat and enjoyed the view buffeted by a chilling wind before we returned to the car.

We headed into Keswick (fast becoming our second home). Payed the £5.30 to park for three hours at Theatre by the Lake and headed into town. We perused the shops with the tones of a soprano and a country singer vying for attention. With chips from The Old Keswickian, we settled in Crow Park and enjoyed watching dogs play in the water with the backdrop of Derwentwater behind them. It was here that I saw my first swallow of the season.

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Crow Park

After lunch, we walked towards Calfclose Bay, looking for a sheltered beach from where to embark on a first swim of 2018! My third at Derwentwater, and how different it was from my previous experiences! (My first time, and second time). From the first entrance I paddled a bit (in 14° waters), but did not find the depths in which to swim so we headed towards the National Trust Centenary Stones where I waded out into deeper waters there. However a mean wind that wiped across the water meant I was fighting waves a surfer would have enjoyed rather than actually doing much swimming. I swam a few strokes, posed before the Centenary Stones and tried to catch the views of Castle Crag and Cat Bells before a wave of fresh water was thrown at me from a gust. I found it hard to navigate and keep my head out of the water. I discovered I prefer to swim in waters less choppy.

The only upside of this experience was that I tested out my new Dryrobe®. It was roomy and kept the wind at bay. I will have to acquire the skills to change into fresh clothing as I got hopelessly tied up in knots, but it is a welcome addition to my ever-growing array of swimming paraphernalia.

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Testing out the Dryrobe®

We returned home from a wonderful day in the Lakes, tired, aching and having caught the sun. A certain person forgot to take the sunscreen, oops! My swim/walk adventures have well and truly begun. I can’t wait to take to the fells again and see where my next swim/walk takes me! Where do you think I should venture to next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My First Wild Swim of 2018

It’s that time of year again! Time to look ahead to where my first swim/walk of 2018 will be.

Last year I did a similar post, asking people to chose which wild swim they would like to see me do. Below find those in the running for 2018. If you have any other suggestions, then do let me know in the comments below.

1. Windermere

This popular lake has never really impressed me. It may be the longest lake in the Lake District but lakes such as Derwentwater and Buttermere more than captured my imagination. However, after finding a decent walk on the western side, a swim in Windermere this year could well be on the cards.

2 Elterwater

Elterwater and its sister tarn, Loughrigg are swims I would like to try in 2018. This walk from Where2Walk looks promising.

3. Bleaberry Tarn

I had chosen Bleaberry Tarn for my last swim of 2017. Unfortunately, on the day my plan changed and I ended up swimming in Buttermere. I have decided to put this tarn back on the list. I am sure we will visit the area again in 2018.

4. Stickle Tarn

With trepidation I have put Stickle Tarn on the list as there is a steep ascent to the water’s edge.

I have tried to chose swims with decent walks and views. Have you visited any of the above? Let me know your thoughts on the selection.

Now it’s time for you to decide!

Castle Crag

Alfred Wainwright would be shaking his head with displeasure if he knew that David and I sort of got lost as we ventured on an easy walk to Castle Crag.

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Castle Crag from Derwentwater

Castle Crag is more of a hill than a mountain. Classified as a Wainwright even though he, himself states in his Pictorial Guides (book six), that the crag of 290m, ‘should be regarded, not as a separate fell but as a protuberance…of Low Scawdel.’ However he then goes on to praise Castle Crag’s merits. ‘Castle Crag is so magnificently independent, so ruggedly individual, so…unashamed of its lack of inches, that less than justice would be done by relegating it to a paragraph in the High Spy chapter.’ I have to agree, Castle Crag looks magnificent in the Jaws of Borrowdale, even if it is overshadowed by higher peaks.

David and I decided Castle Crag would be the destination of our most recent day out. We arrived at the the quiet village of Rosthwaite just before 10am. We managed to get a parking space at the small NT car park (where toilets are free but ask for a donation). We paid £6 for four hours parking.

However on the day, with poor intelligence and bad maps, David and I took a detour towards caves where ‘Professor of Adventure,’ Millican Dalton took summer residence before his death in 1947, aged 79. We saw melting icicles before we retraced our tracks and finally found a path that climbed steeply towards the views and quarry of Castle Crag.

We navigated through a slippery spoil heap to get to the summit, where there’s a WW1 memorial and beautiful views of Derwentwater. Buffeted by a chilling easterly wind, David and I managed to share a picnic with red kites chasing each other, while surveying the awesome scenery.

I simply love this area of the Lake District and keep coming back to explore more and more of its facets. Eagle Crag looked enticing (Wainwright’s Route A looked doable), and we have yet to venture towards Latrigg. Which fell do you think David and I should explore next?

Thanks so much for reading,

Christine x

Revisiting Derwentwater

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Lodore Falls

Two weeks ago, David and I embarked on the 10 mile circular walk around Derwentwater. The weather forecast for the weekend, though being cold with winds blown from Siberia, was meant to be fair. So after an early rise, we headed up the M6 towards Keswick, (fast becoming our second home), to parking by the Theatre by The Lake. I paid £9 for 12 hours parking, a little excessive but we didn’t know how long it would take us to walk the circumference of the lake. Some estimates were between 3-6 hours. So I paid more just for the peace of mind. In reality our walk took 4.5h, stopping to take photos, visiting the trickle that was Lodore Falls and having lunch.

We began our walk from the Keswick Launch and followed the path past the much snapped view from Friar’s Crag. (Here’s some pictures I took on an earlier visit!)

The path meandered through woodland, past Calfclose Bay where the NT Hundred Year Stones lie. It was from here that I undertook a wonderful early morning swim, in 2016. However, I’ve not seen the stones in higher waters.

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NT Centenary Stones

Along the route we followed a few short stretches of roadside. We passed the Lodore Hotel and continued right, through a gate, following a sign for Manesty.

The route continued across delicate wetlands protected by a meandering plastic boardwalk. We crossed the River Derwent by the quaint Chinese Bridge. I snapped my favourite picture of the day from this angle. I turned to the jaws of Borrowdale and snapped a hazy looking Castle Crag.

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Castle Crag and Borrowdale

Along our walk on the east side of Derwentwater we spied numerous rope swings, so we had to try at least one. 🙂

We took in Low Brandelhow and the NT Entrust sculpture before heading to Portinscale.

From Portinscale we followed a pathway from the main road and over a bridge across the River Greta. This pathway took us back towards Keswick. At this point in the walk we were both tiring, with feet complaining. I broke out the Kendal Mint Cake which helped us walk those final steps back to the car.

I hope you have enjoyed our little tour around Derwentwater. Thank you to Sharon who inspired this walk, she visited Derwentwater in a snowy January.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #44

I love sharing my weekly updates with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

Anniversary:

anniversary 12 years

Today, David and I are celebrating 12 happy years together. I am so very lucky to have such a wonderful, caring man in my life. He is my constant companion, friend and confidante. I am so excited to be celebrating 12 wonderful years with him!

Culture:

1400X700_0004_The Kite Runner 2018 - 1 RAJ GHATAK (Amir) and JO BEN AYED (Hassan) Photo Betty Zapata

Photo by Betty Zapata

This Saturday David and I had tickets to see the matinee of Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner at the Liverpool Playhouse. After reading the novel last year and hearing about the stage production that was returning to Liverpool in 2018, I just had to book tickets. I was not disappointed. The play heavily relies on the storytelling of Amir (Raj Ghatak) but you are easily drawn into the human story of guilt and redemption. The production is wonderfully staged with live music performed by Hanif Khan. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance. If you get the chance to see this play, I’d recommend.

#walk1000miles:

Last week, my weekly total was a staggering 43 miles, my best yet! A ten mile walk around Derwentwater helped. However this week I have been struggling. The cold weather has knocked my motivation. The total for this week has been 32 miles, bringing my annual total to 326 miles. I promise to do better next week! 🙂

20180304_161938Book I am reading:

For the past few months, as I have been waiting for the bus to work, I have chatted to a lovely lady called Lily. We were recently discussing novels and she informed me of the many crime writers she enjoys reading. This Wednesday I met her at the bus stop waiting for the bus that was 10 minutes late and she said, ‘I have your book.’ She had promised to give me a book she had recently read. The novel is called A Cold Case in Amsterdam Central by Anja De Jager. Lily told me to ‘pay it forward’, so if anyone is interested in the copy, once I’ve read it, then let me know. 🙂

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Snow in the yarden

The weather:

The news that has dominated the headlines here in the UK, is the weather. The Beast from the East left many places struggling with heavy snowfall. Liverpool however remained unscathed, with only a light dusting on Wednesday. 😦

New Friends:

As an anniversary gift to each other, last Sunday David and I visited our favourite pet shop, Clipsley to see what finch species they had in stock. As we have not had Bengalese Finches since the death of Fudge in March last year, we decided to buy a pair. The Bengalese were the founders of our aviary, and Neve and Moor are a welcome addition to our aviary.

This past week has been tough, though the happy times have more than dispelled the sad. 🙂

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x